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Bordeaux 2001 - Part III


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This is the third in a series of tasting reports, these 40 wines tasted on March 26th at Châteaux La Couspaude in St-Emilion, and Gazin in Pomerol. It will be very intersting to see what the rest of the world's wine media makes of the 20 St-Emilions on show here. I tasted the first few and thought it was simply a bit of palate-shock (given that it was barely 10:00am) that was making the wines taste so dry and inky, with the fruit submerged and compacted beneath a lid of mouth-puckering tannins. However, as I tasted through the wines I found this pattern pretty consistent, and it was a relief to come across the occasional wine that showed a chink of light in its character.

I found tasting the St-Emilions pretty hard work - though I am quite used to tasting similar wines at this stage. I concluded that there was a tendency for the wines of St-Emilion to be over-extracted in this vintage. For whatever reason, I felt that too aggressive an approach to the winemaking had extracted too much pigment and tannins from the skins in too many cases. There is good fruit in most of these wines, and with a lot of work it is possible to discern that there is a lot going on beneath the extract, but only time will tell if these really are balanced wines that will mature into elegant, "classic" Bordeaux. On looking back I scored them quite highly. I always try to be objective in scoring, and these are without doubt impressive of a certain style. The question is, whether that style will suit your expectations of fine Bordeaux.

In Pomerol the picture was much happier for me. Some might argue these are not such immediately impressive wines in terms of "build-quality", and the superstars of Le Pin, Petrus, etc. were not on show, but other fine wines like L'Evangile, Petit Village and Gazin showed that depth and structure can be obtained whilst retaining a sense of lightness, elegance and approachability.

St-Emilion

Château Angélus Premier Grand Cru Classé
Subdued sweet cherry nose, but with thick, liquorice intensity. The palate is cool, tight and dense, with a lot of dark, savoury fruit beneath compact, velvety tannins that are grippy and deep. Seems to have a lot of structure and gravitas, but a bit impenetrable. 17-18/20.

Château Balestard-La-Tonnelle, Grand Cru Classé
Very, very tight again. Thick and dense quality of violet-tinged black fruit, but all very compacted. Rich seam of blackberry on the palate, with dense, juicy blackness and plenty of tannic heft. More svelte though, with a bit of gloss and depth. 18/20.

Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot, Premier Grand Cru Classé
A theme emerging here, with a bittersweet, compact, chocolate and dark fruit nose. Highly extracted. There's a suggestion of mineral in there. Very juicy palate, with lots of sweet, ripe black fruit and cherry and fine, if powerful tannins. This has real quality and suppleness about it. 18/20.

Château Canon, Premier Grand Cru Classé
A little more warmth on the nose, and some more openness. A hint of vegetality, but still quite fine, dark, tight fruit. Good quality on the palate, with a bit of toastiness coming through, and very dry tannins. 17/20.

Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, Grand Cru Classé
Ripe red cherry and plum fruit, a touch of smokiness. Ripe and sweet fruit ok, but pretty tight and closed with a great spine of bittersweet black cherry acidity and tannin. Extracted style, but this could come round nicely. 17-18/20.

Château Cap de Mourlin, Grand Cru Classé
Notes of chocolate and a little violety sweetness and ripeness. There is blueberry and plum-skin dark fruit, but plenty of tight, refined quality on the palate. Good fruit. 17/20.

Château Dassault, Grand Cru Classé
Sweet vanilla-slicked cassis and cream. Quite flashy, but a little more openness and good purity of fruit. Big savoury tannins and acidity, but a lovely underpinning by quality black plum fruit. Very nice. 18/20.

Château Figeac, Premier Grand Cru Classé
There is more of an elegance about this, with some tobacco and cedar notes and sweet black fruits. Good quality. Cool palate, and still quite extracted but ripe, dense fruit with plenty of plummy roughness and good length. 18/20.

Château Fonpléglade, Grand Cru Classé
More modest nose on this - not quite so dense. Good quality of fruit, but a gear down from previous wines in terms of concentration and purity of fruit quality. Supple and cherryish palate. 16/20.

Château Clos Fourtet, Grand Cru Classé
Very tight on the nose. Very hard to get into this wine. Concentrated on the palate and has a lot of grip, but tough to make a judgement. 16?/20.

Château Franc-Mayne, Grand Cru Classé
A little suggestion of violet and ripe cherry sweetness. Deep, ripe fruit behind. On the palate there is more of that sweet fruit quality evident, and nice tangy quality. Good balance and an attractive, modern style. 17/20.

Château Grand-Mayne, Grand Cru Classé
Quite a powerful, savoury nose with earthy qualities and plenty of intense, deep, rich fruit. There's a lovely quality of fruit here, with a plate that is really sweet and rich, with fine concentration, flesh and balance. 18-19/20.Quite an open, charcoally

Château La Couspaude, Grand Cru Classé
Quite a charcoally note here, and already toasty with a big plum and damson core that continues onto the palate. Very juicy and supple. Generous fruit here, and an up-front style, though plenty of grip. 17-18/20.

Château La Dominique, Grand Cru Classé
La Dominique is always so forward, sweet and flattering on the nose with a feminine, soft, floral and elegant berry nose. A little creaminess too. Still fine concentration on the palate, with pencil-shaving nuances, liquorice and deep cherry fruit. Maybe not the most profound, but delicious and very good. 17-18/20.

Château La Gaffelière, Premier Grand Cru Classé
Earth and mineral qualities give a lovely cut to solid balck fruit. Oak has already affed a nice tobacco and toast note. The palate is powerful and dense, with lots of thick, sweet fruit and a chocolaty note. Rich and long. 18/20.

Château La Tour Figeac, Grand Cru Classé
There's a cherry-skin, fragrant nose here, with a touch of sweet floral perfume. Good crunchy black fruit on the palate, and a touch of blueberry. There's a relly bitter plum-skin, tannic edge that is a touch too dry. 16-17/20.

Château Larcis-Ducasse, Grand Cru Classé
Quite an open, berryish quality on the nose, with more of a red fruit quality. But then the palate lacks depth, with a touch of hollowness and modest fruit. Quite nice in a lighter style, and decent early drinking if cheap enough. 15/20.

Château Larmande, Grand Cru Classé
Mineral and charcoally edge to black cherry fruit. Nice toffeed undertone. Very concentrated palate with fine, rough, plummy texture and weight. Plenty of spice and concentration, but balanced and good length. 17-18/20.

Château Troplong-Mondot, Grand Cru Classé
Deep and tight nose that isn't giving a lot. Some toast. On the palate there is an inky blackness of fruit; plum and blackcurrant, damson skins. Very dense and extracted. A bit of a bruising tannic quality, but there is a ton of juicy fruit beneath though to redeem it. Big wine, that has balance and could be very good indeed in time. 18/20.

Pomerol

Château Beauregard
Nicely earthy, slightly bloody note, a touch of woodland berry fruits and chocolaty mouthfeel. There's plenty of sweet, dark, plum and bitter cocoa, but this has lovely freshness, depth and balance. 18/20.

Château Clinet
Nice leafy, earthy quality here, backed up by firm blackcurrant. A great chewy weight of fruit on the palate, with high extraction and lots of lummy, damsony depth, but a definite lush quality. Long and opulent. 18/20.

Château Gazin
A little schisty, charcoally note here. A pleasantly sauvage quality of gamy perfume. There is kirsch-like fruit. Concentrated palate with silky texture, flesh and a chocolaty depth. Lots of life and joy about this wine. Lovely. 19/20.

Château La Cabanne
Toffe and sweet fudge on the nose, with toasty aromas and a note of sweet, floral fruitiness. Th epalate has very dark plum and bittersweet chocolaty fruit. Lots of rough, grippy black fruit and tannin. Bold and good. 18/20.

Château La Conseillante
Tight, submerged, deeply-seated sweet black fruit. Dark, chocolaty and dense. High extraction of bittersweet black fruit, that is sinewy and chewy, with undoubted concentration but a hint of toughness about it. Should come good. 17-18/20.

Château La Croix de Gay
More light here, with red fruit character and sweet, fudge-like oak, summer berries and good ripeness. There's a sense of finesse on the nose. The palate has plenty of grip and concentration, but there's that extra dimension of sweet fruit and balance. 18/20.

Château La Pointe
Charcoally nose; a hint of minerality and a background of toast. Good, ripe blackurranty fruit. This is muscular in style, brawny palate with sinewy, meaty fruit and clamped by solid tannins. Good quality of fruit and plenty of structure, but maybe just a touch foursquare? 17/20.

Château L'Evangile
Fine depth here, even notes of complexity with a suggestion of cedar, vanilla, flowers, sweet plums and a glossy blackcurrant core. Th epalate id concentrated but very fine. There is a weight of silky, black sweet fruit; fruit compote and cassis. Long and structured, this is excellent. 19/20.

Château Petit-Village
Quite a jammy, ripe blackcurrant confiture quality; very sweet and lovely. Not much obvious oak influence at this stage. Good fruit on the palate; savoury and tart with cherry skins and plum, hints of woodsmoke, tobacco and a long finish. Good weight and balance. 18-19/20.

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